Previous studies have echoed similar sentiments of the role of magnesium in cancer prevention and treatment
More than 1.9 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2022 according to American Cancer Society projections. Approximately 609,360 patients will lose their life to this disease during this same time frame, with lung cancer taking the biggest toll at a projected 350 deaths per day. While living a healthy lifestyle, quitting smoking, and wearing sunscreen when outdoors have been long-standing recommendations for reducing cancer risk, one new study reveals the role of magnesium in cancer prevention and treatment.
Magnesium, T cells, and LFA-1
This study was published in the journal Cell in January 2022 and makes a connection between magnesium and T cell activation, the type of cells known to attack and kill cancer.
It explains that the T cell integrin lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1 (LFA-1) serves as a docking site for abnormal and infected cells. The problem is that when LFA-1 is in an inactive state, it is bent and unable to bind to these cells effectively.
These scientists found that, when LFA-1 is in a magnesium-rich environment, it remains extended or in an active position. That enables this T cell integrin to continue to bind to the abnormal cells. The authors concluded that this can play a critical role in cancer treatment.
While they couldn’t affirmatively determine magnesium as a preventive, Integrative Practitioner recommends that health care providers consider including this nutrient as part of a care plan for patients diagnosed with cancer and those at risk of a diagnosis.
Reinforcing past findings
This isn’t the first time that magnesium has had positive links with fighting cancer — previous studies have echoed similar sentiments of the role of magnesium in cancer prevention and treatment.
One example is an article published in Magnesium Research in September 2011 which names magnesium deficiency as a risk factor for certain cancer types. A 2004 study concluded that a magnesium-calcium infusion had a positive effect on cancer patients, cutting the incidence of neuropathy by more than half.
Difficulty in magnesium level assessment
Although several studies have pointed to magnesium deficiency as a key player in cancer prevention and treatment, the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) indicates that assessing someone’s level of this nutrient is sometimes easier said than done.
According to the ODS, magnesium resides largely inside cells and bones. Therefore, measuring serum magnesium concentration—which is the most common form of assessment—may not provide a clear picture of actual levels.
The ODS adds that some experts support a magnesium-loading tolerance test as the best assessment method. This involves giving a patient a dose of magnesium intravenously, then measuring output in the urine for 24 hours.
Testing of this level can be both arduous and expensive. A more available approach would be to help patients understand the role of magnesium in cancer prevention and treatment, then suggest that they obtain the recommended daily intake.
The ODS provides a recommended dietary allowance or RDA for magnesium, with this amount varying based on sex and age. It is suggested that males aged 19-30 obtain 400 mg of magnesium daily, with older males (31+ years) needing slightly more, or 420 mg. Females between 19-30 have an RDA of 310 mg, this amount increasing to 320 mg for all ages over 31. Those who are pregnant need more.
Several foods contain this nutrient and pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and almonds are some of the best sources. So too is spinach, cashews, peanuts, shredded wheat cereal, and soymilk.
The role of magnesium in cancer prevention and treatment with supplementation
If patients don’t obtain enough magnesium in their diet, a supplement can help fill the gap. The forms of magnesium that are more bioavailable include aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride reports the ODS. If a patient takes a zinc supplement, this can inhibit magnesium absorption.
Individuals at greatest risk of magnesium inadequacy include those with gastrointestinal disease, type 2 diabetes, alcohol dependence, or patients of an older age. Talking with these demographics specifically can help them understand the importance of magnesium in their diet, especially as it relates to the cancer disease.